Article on abuse of seniors hits home

A reader writes that a piece about abuse of elders struck a chord with her.

Dear Editor,

Boy, did that article about elder abuse resonate (“Senior abuse is not always carried out by strangers”, June 2). It was not only because of personal experience, but also because of what I have witnessed and heard from others.

One of the problems is that the elderly often don’t realize they are being abused. They will complain to others, and they may even complain to the sons or the daughters who are abusing them, but when it actually comes down to saying “No”, they can’t. They shell out money regularly; money that is never repaid.

Martha Jane Lewis of the B.C. Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support is quoted in the article as saying “Older adults who have been financially abused by loved ones often do nothing. They’re embarrassed, or it’s too painful for them.” It might also be added that they are fearful; so fearful they may even defend their loved one when the situation is reported.

Confrontation is something the elderly want to avoid at all costs. As an elderly person, I know how fragile the nerves can be when faced with situations of finance and privacy. It is not only your body that is unable to cope with activity that you formerly could do easily; it is also your mind that needs peace, tranquillity, order.

When the balance of daily living is upset by others, it is difficult, if not impossible, to cope. Some just try to cope, and give in.

It’s easy to advise “Just say no”, but the consequences can be outbursts of temper, or worse. Loved ones who make demands and expect them to be complied with are probably as vulnerable, in some instances, as the parent they are abusing.

What then? Let’s face it, the situation is a lot more complicated when you are dealing with human emotions.

When I chose to live in a well-run facility for seniors here, I did so because I wanted to work. I wanted to do what I do best. It was the perfect place.

Once here, however, the challenge was living at close proximity with my neighbours: their problems, their personalities.

It is painful to realize that, in order to survive, even in a safe environment such as the one I live in, you must distance yourself from the problems of others. That is not the Christian way, nor is it my nature, but survival demands it.

Esther Darlington



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